RANDOLPH, NJ - For Randolph head coach Rich McLaughlin, the Mennen Cup opener continued a trend he would like to change. The Rams once again outshot their opponent by a wide margin and carried play throughout the game, but found themselves down early and deadlocked at game’s end. The part of the trend he doesn’t want to change, is the fact that they found a way to win, defeating Morris Knolls, 2-1, in a shootout.
After the game McLaughlin said, “It’s just that kind of year. We are getting shots, but have trouble scoring goals. Other games this year we have outshot our opponent but trail after one. We just have to work hard and play great defense.”
The first period saw the Rams controlling play while getting two power play opportunities. Despite all the activity in the Knolls end of the ice, they couldn’t find the net. Late in the period, a turnover in the neutral zone led to a Knolls rush up ice. Forward Matt Mezik began to lose control of the puck and just pushed it towards the net. Goalie Garret Stenberg attempted to poke check the puck away but misjudged it and allowed a soft goal at the 2:13 mark. The period ended 1-0 Knolls with Randolph having the edge in shots at 10-4.
Andrew Holowko started the second period in net for the Rams, and they continued to pressure Knolls with a strong forecheck. Knolls killed off two more power plays, but Randolph finally broke through late in the period on a shot by Mitchell Gaudioso. Noah Leinwand fed the puck up ice to Gaudioso who was on a rush over the blue line, and he fired a shot under the crossbar to tie the game at 1.
On the strong forecheck, McLaughlin explained “Tonight we forechecked really well. We took the body and got that second guy in on the puck. The guys played hard and stuck their noses in there.”
That punishing of the Knolls defensemen took its toll as things got chippy in the third. The Rams continued to aggressively crash the net, and Knolls pushed back resulting in tussles after the whistle.
Knolls best chance to grab the lead came off a bad pinch by Randolph at the 9 minute mark, resulting in a 2 on 1 breakaway. Holowko made a low stick save to turn away the threat. The Rams peppered Knolls goalie Zach Flake with 16 shots in the third. They had four good looks in the last few minutes, but each shot went astray. For the game Randolph had a 39-23 advantage in shots on goal.
A 15 minute OT saw a power play for each side, but left the game deadlocked at 1 apiece and set up the shootout. Brendan Siegel scored the Rams first shootout goal to match a Knolls goal, and Noah Leinwand followed with another to put Randolph up 2-1 in the shootout. A big save by Holowko then set up the opportunity for Sophmore Dan Janson to seal the win, and he didn’t disappoint firing a shot through the five hole.
Janson said “I knew what I wanted to do before I went. Watching the Olympics, I got a few ideas from seeing T.J. Oshie in the shootout. When asked about the importance of the goal, Janson commented, “This is definitely one of the biggest goals I ever scored, especially in a shootout against a rival like Knolls.”
McLaughlin concluded, “We haven’t played well in a couple weeks, but tonight we played well. It was a group effort and they all worked hard. It’s not our forte, but somehow we won in a shootout. Tonight was our night.”
The Semifinals game will be on Thursday at Mennen Arena, 8:15 p.m., against Morristown Beard